What are the Different Screwdriver Types Used For?

tray of different socketed screwdrivers

Screwdrivers could easily be considered the most important tool for any handyman. Although the Phillips screwdriver tends to be the most popular and most widely used, there are several different types, each with a specific purpose.

This guide will give you information about each of the screwdriver types and what they are best used for.

Choosing and Using a Screwdriver

Almost everything that is built or manufactured will probably require a screwdriver of some sort. Most things can be built using a flat blade screwdriver or a Phillips screwdriver, but this doesn't mean that you should use these.

The type that you use will depend on what you are building and how secure you need that item to be.

outline of each screwdriver head

Some screwdrivers have the bit built in and it can't be changed. This is the case with most manual flat blade and Phillips.

However, these give you limited uses. If you want the most versatility, another option is to get a driver in which you can change out the bits. An example of this, shown below, is the multi-bit screwdriver set (check price on Amazon).

multi-bit screwdriver set

This will give you the most versatility, especially if you get a kit with all or most of the different bits.

Using the right drill bit with your screwdriver or using the right screwdriver is important so you can prevent stripping the screw head, or cam out. This is when the screwdriver slips out of the fastener due to torque that could be too high.

Cam out can damage your drill bits and the fastener to a point where they are no longer usable. Prevent cam out by using the right tool for the job.

In the following section, twelve different screwdrivers are introduced and explained.

Twelve of the Most Common Screwdrivers


Flat Blade (Slotted)

flat blade screwdriver outline
Of all the screwdriver types, the Flat blade is one of the oldest tools that people use, dating back to the 1500s. As the name indicates, the end of the screwdriver is flat.

This allows it to fit into many different sized or shaped fasteners. The size of the screwdriver usually indicates two measurements--the blade width and shaft length. However, the thickness of the blade isn't usually indicated.

Flat blade screwdrivers are some of the most versatile screwdrivers available because they can be used in so many different applications.


Phillips

Phillips screw outline
The Phillips screwdriver was named after its inventor, Henry Phillips. It was first used by General Motors in 1936 in the building of Cadillacs. This screwdriver has an X-shaped head that allows it to produce more torque when being used which makes it great for heavy-duty applications such as building cars.

What sets the Phillips apart from a flat blade (besides its design) is the fact that it's self-centering and it has a tighter fit. This means that you can use one hand to turn a fastener and this also makes it extremely useful in automated assembly systems.


Square Head (Robertson)

square drive
The square head screwdriver, also known as the Robertson screwdriver, was invented before the Phillips screwdriver. Invented by and named after a Canadian named P.L. Robertson in 1908, this screwdriver was made because of the problems with using a flat blade.

It looks like a regular flat blade except that the end is square instead of flat.

This is a self-centering screwdriver with a tight fit just like the Phillips and is much more secure while turning a fastener. The driver (as well as the screws, which he also invented) didn't take too well in Canada, but they were a success in the United States with Ford being one of the first companies to begin using them.

Now there are five different sized Robertsons available. They are color-coded to match different sized compatible fasteners.


Allen Wrench

Allen screw head
The Allen wrench, also sometimes called a hex wrench, hex key, or an Allen key, are small, L-shaped wrenches with a hexagonal-shaped end. Allen wrenches and the compatible fasteners have become increasingly popular with furniture that consumers can assemble at home.

This tool is so small and inexpensive to produce that they are often included in the box with the furniture. They can come in different sizes (diameters). The three most popular are the 5/32-inch, 3/16-inch, and 1/4-inch.

These fasteners and wrenches are also commonly used in bicycles and motorcycle engines.


Torx

torx head
The Torx screwdriver, also commonly called a star screwdriver, was invented by a company called Camcar Textron in 1967. The complimenting screw was designed to be mostly tamper-resistant and is used in products such as computers, car engines, and construction.

These screwdrivers come in 100 different sizes, labeled from T1 (the smallest) to T100. There are a few different types of Torx screwdrivers. One is the original Torx, a six-pointed star shape screw and screwdriver that is self-centering.

Another is the Torx Plus which is shaped slightly different than the original. It allows more contact between the screwdriver and the fastener, so it can withstand more torque than the original screwdriver.


Allen Security

allen security profile
The Allen security screwdriver also called a hex security screwdriver or a tamper-resistant hex screwdriver was created to secure products that manufacturers don't want the general public to have access to. These screwdrivers aren't available on the general market.

The complimenting screw has a small metal post in the center of it that prevents regular Allen screwdrivers from working on it. The Allen security tools (as well as the complimenting screws) come in these common sizes: 1/8, 3/32, 3/16, 1/4 and 5/16.


Schrader Valve Bit/Driver

Schrader screw profile
For Schrader valves, the drivers often come in kits with interchangeable Schrader valve bits. The driver and bits allow for installations of Schrader valves which are commonly used in HVAC systems, engines, and tires.

These little valves are often sticking out from whatever unit they are attached to. In tires, for example, they are the valves that you use to put air in the tires.

These pneumatic valves are under a lot of pressure and must be installed exactly right to prevent malfunction and/or injury. Because of this, high-quality bits and drivers are essential.


Tri-Wing

tri-wing screw profile
Tri-Wing, also sometimes called triangular slotted, can often be confused with tri-tip screwdrivers but they are very different. Unlike the tri-tip, the tri-wing's center is off-set.

The tri-wing fastener is a triangle with three "wings" extending from each point. These screwdrivers aren't common for general consumer use. Originally these were developed for use in the aerospace industry. They are now used in gaming consoles and mobile phones.


Torx Security

Torx security screw head profile
This is another version of a Torx screwdriver. This type of screwdriver is not generally available to the public because it is used in products that the average person shouldn't be unscrewing.

The complimenting screws have a metal piece in the middle to prevent tampering so a regular Torx screwdriver won't work on them. The Torx security screwdriver is specially made with a hole in the middle to accommodate these special screws.


Pozidriv

Pozidriv
This screwdriver type is very similar to Phillips screwdrivers and can sometimes be confused with them. However, Pozidriv has an additional shallow X whose lines are at a 45-degree angle with the deeper X that would be found on the Phillips.

These type of screwdrivers can handle a much larger amount of torque than others. While the two types of drivers are interchangeable, it isn't recommended because the screws and the screwdrivers can become damaged.

Using a Pozidriv screwdriver with a Pozidriv screw provides the best results. Since it is self-centering you can get more torque while still reducing cam out.


Clutch

Clutch screw profile
These special tools are made to go with their corresponding Clutch screws. There are two types: Type A and Type G.

The end of the Type A screwdriver looks like a butterfly with a round knot in the middle. Type A is sometimes called the standard clutch and these screws were commonly used in GM vehicles several decades ago.

Type G drivers are more common now. The end of the Type G looks like a butterfly without the knot. The corresponding screws are considered as security screws. This is because a flat head can screw them in, but they are specially designed so that only a clutch can screw them out.

Type G clutch screwdrivers and screws are very often used in building mobile homes. Because of the security feature, they are also used in prison fixtures and school/college fixtures.


Spanner

Spanner screw profile
The Spanner screwdriver, also sometimes called the Snake-Eye (patented), pig nose, drilled head, or the twin-nose screwdriver features two small, long, thin, round bars connected to the end of the driver.

This is a self-centering driver and it is also used for security applications (used with security spanner screws). Spanners are used in a number of different applications that couldn't be more different from each other.

They can be used on anything from elevators to spikes for golf shoes.

Final Tips

I hope this guide to screwdriver types has helped your understanding of the uses of one of the most popular and most used tools that you can have. They are versatile and in many projects, required.

While some of them aren't for the general public, many of them are so your business or your home garage workshop can be prepared for whatever job comes your way.

Keep in mind that cheap screwdrivers may not work as well as you want, especially if you have heavy-duty jobs. Invest in the best tools you can the first time around to save yourself a headache.